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Southwest Florida Research and Education Center is growing

UF's Southwest Florida Research and Education Center is growing. Photo by UF/IFAS

See caption below

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The backhoes are ready and rebar marks off where new walls will stand as the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center gets ready to break ground officially  on a 7,000-square-foot expansion Thursday.

“The Southwest Florida REC is a vital part of UF’s mission to find solutions for everyone from residents to major stakeholders in the farming industry,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This expansion will enhance and even add to that mission by making room for new labs and new faculty members.”

Situated on 320 acres, the center serves growers, farmers and other clients in Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.  SWFREC faculty members study in seven disciplines: agricultural economics, citrus horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, soil and water science, vegetable horticulture, and water resources. The current structure stands at 21,000 square feet; the expansion will bring the total to 28,000 square feet.

The Florida Legislature granted $2 million to UF to build the facility and construction is set to finish in December.  The building will house labs and offices for potential new faculty members.

The SWFREC houses a plant pathology lab, which analyzes and diagnoses citrus greening, citrus canker, black spot on tomatoes and peppers, and watermelon vine decline.  The agricultural economics program offers a certificate program for farm labor supervisors. And researchers facilitate the Citrus Health Management Areas, a coordinated pesticide program to help stave off citrus greening.

“Southwest Florida is a major agricultural region with unique problems and characteristics that deserves

a team of scientists specifically addressing its issues,” said Calvin Arnold, SWFREC director.  “I envision that the agricultural producers, harvesters, packers, shippers and processors in Southwest Florida will readily give testimony to the enhanced value of the Center during the next five years.”

The architect on the project is Ponikvar & Associates out of Gainesville, while the contractor is The Brentwood Companies of Archer, Fla.

The groundbreaking ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at 2685 North State Road 29, just north of Immokalee. For more information, contact Becky Decker at 239-658-3420 or rdecker54@ufl.edu.

By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, k.moore.wilmoth@ufl.edu

Source: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, jackpayne@ufl.edu

Calvin Arnold, (239) 658-3400, cearnold@ufl.edu

Photo caption: UF’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center is growing. Photo by UF/IFAS